PolitiFact looked at Bernie Sanders’ claim that he wins when Democratic turnout is high and rated the claim as mostly false.
PolitiFact examined the turnout for every Democratic primary and caucus in 2016, and found that Sanders’ claim that high turnout equals a victory for his campaign was not true:
Sanders said, “We win when voter turnout is high, we lose when it is low.”
Sanders did notch a few notable victories in high-turnout primaries, but it would be cherry-picking to focus only on primaries. Sanders has mostly won caucuses, which have produced the lowest turnout rates of 2016 across the board. And while Sanders did win the handful of states where Democratic turnout increased over 2008, these increases were tiny, casting doubt on how significant an accomplishment this is.
The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
Sanders’ statement is a simple and easy to understand talk point that drives home the message to his supporters that turnout is vital to winning. The problem is that instead of saying generally he needs turnout to win, Sen. Sanders statement has morphed into a kind of guarantee/excuse. Before any primary, Sanders supporters think that if they show up, they will win. If Sanders loses a state, he can always argue that turnout was not high enough.
The underlying basis for the Sanders campaign is that a grassroots revolution is surging and making their voices heard in these primaries and caucuses. Sen. Sanders argument for why he should be the Democratic nominee is based on the claim that he increases turnout. PolitiFact ran the numbers and proved that the Sanders claim isn’t true.
If Sen. Sanders loses the delegate race, loses the popular vote, and doesn’t dramatically increase turnout, the argument for why the superdelegates should drop Clinton and flip to Sanders becomes more difficult.
The Democratic primary is not over yet. If Bernie Sanders wants to be the Democratic nominee, he needs to focus on winning with the issues instead of floating hopeful, but misleading statements about turnout
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association